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Actors shine in female ‘Odd Couple’

Despite plot’s problems, the show is a delight

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THE ODD COUPLE: THE FEMALE VERSION, Grand Theatre, 1575 S. State; continues through Feb. 2; box office: 957-3322. Running time: two hours (one intermission).

More than most plays, the "female version" of Neil Simon's "The Odd Couple" demands that the audience suspend belief.

You have to accept, first of all, that a bunch of women who possess at least average homemaking skills would willingly schedule their weekly get-together at the home of the only slob in the group. You also have to believe they wouldn't show up with a casserole dish in hand when they come to her house.

Next, you have to accept the silly supposition that if one of their dearest friends were to be ditched by her husband and were suicidal, the women would pretend not to know, as if they were men or something. Like they wouldn't be clucking all over her the minute she walked in the door.

Get past the plot problems, however, and you can enjoy yourself at the Grand Theatre's production of "The Odd Couple, The Female Version."

Toni Lynn Byrd shines in this play as both the artistic director and star in the role of Olive Madison, slob friend. Her co-star, playing the twitty little Florence Unger, is Jayne Luke. They make an amusing pair.

Debra Flink plays Sylvie. Annette Wright is Renee. Cherie Symes is Vera. Shannon Price is Mickey, the cop, who apparently doesn't like her husband.

The dialogue among these four around the game table has to propel the plot, and in this it is not entirely successful.

At last Saturday's matinee, at the Grand, these actors' voices were a bit hard to hear. The problem was compounded as certain audience members felt compelled to repeat the lines they could hear, loudly, to each other, thus making it difficult for others to hear the next lines.

One of the more successful plot adaptations in the female version is that the sympathetic neighbors are men. Instead of making them ditzy, Neal Simon makes them into recent immigrants, with the same amusing results. They don't understand what Florence is talking about, but they see that she's sad and rush in to protect her.

Manolo and Jesus Costazuela, two brothers from Spain, at first seem to confuse the words "spouse" and "louse." They ask, "Did you know he was a spouse before you married him?"

David Trujillo is Jesus and Jesse Dolce is Manolo. Both are nice in their roles; Dolce is especially flamboyant.

Richard Scott directed the production, with Marnie Sears designing the set and Scott Shaw handling the lighting — all these familiar names bring professionalism to the show.

E-mail: susan@desnews.com